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As an example, this question is titled using sentence case. I've been going to lots of different meta sites (especially this one), and I think the needle bent on my oh-me-oh-my-my-ocd-oh-meter.

Can we please standardize on using either:

  • Sentence case
  • Title Case
  • AP Style Title Case

... and then we can look at just converting titles automatically? This would be a switch, of course, but I'd only imagine turning it off on sites where program code or symbols might be present in titles. Or, it could just become part of editing guidelines.

Additionally, is this a horrible idea?

To see the differences between them, you can put any arbitrary title into titlecase.com (we have no affiliation with them, it's just a tool I sometimes recommend to people).

We would also eventually adopt this for static routes, but I'm mostly talking about questions.

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    Wouldn't sentence case just be...doing nothing like right now? Sure you're not proposing to uncapitalize every word not at the start as that would be a mess as soon as the first proper name appears. – Christian Rau Aug 31 '18 at 15:06
  • @ChristianRau No, not quite. We need to help standardize title properties in general (beyond case, see Shog's answer), but I got ahead of myself on this one. Sorry for the noise folks! – Tim Post Aug 31 '18 at 15:07
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    KEEP IT SIMPLE, JUST ALL CAPS IT. – Won't Aug 31 '18 at 16:54
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Title case is a horror unless you happen to be working for a newspaper, in which case I can forgive it because of all the lead fumes you've inhaled running the Linotype machine.

...what's that? Newspapers don't use Linotype anymore? Then title case is just a horror.

But... What's a "non-technical" question? Almost everything we talk about here is technical in some way, whether it's cooking or programming or playing chess; each field has its own vocabulary, its own set of meaningful proper nouns... Whether that's "SQL Server" or "Hamburger Helper" or "The Dutch Defense". Automatic rewriting is a recipe for chaos...

But what we could do is calculate a score for a title based on things like the frequency of capitalized first letters, and then inform the author or editor that their title kinda looks bad. Actually... We already do this, but only when the title is a real mess; there's no "this title isn't abysmal but sure could be better with less caps" warning.

A while back, we talked about a system akin to those password strength checkers, something that'd let the author know when a given title was likely to attract the bad sort of attention... this would be a great start to something like that.

  • We should totally do something like that. Seems like a good logical next step to 'wizard-y' things. – Tim Post Aug 31 '18 at 14:38
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Even though I detest Title Case with a passion, I have some doubts about whether this would work:

  • While most question titles are (attempts at) complete sentences, there are numerous exceptions, e.g. I like "Formatting Sandbox" better than "Formatting sandbox".
  • How are you going to detect proper nouns, which should remain capitalized in sentence case?
  • Consistency is really nice, but the Hot Network Questions list will still show a mix of technical and non-technical sites.
8

I have a strong preference for sentence case.

A quick view of the most recent 3 pages on Meta Stack Exchange shows that sentence case is the most commonly used of all three styles for titles by far. Adapting a different, less-used style will feel wrong for many.

However, I think programmatic conversion to sentence case is near-impossible to do right. You need to account for:

  • Quotes
  • Abbreviations
  • Names (persons, brands)
  • Deities (can be hard on Hinduism.SE)
  • Replacement characters (e.g. Should I include a page number every X pages)
  • Likely many other things I can't think of right now

I personally don't think this is worth the dev time to implement it properly (if that's even possible), and implementing it improperly will likely do more harm than good.

We could, however, decide that titles should be sentence case, and try to detect use of title case and AP style title case, and either display a warning or require adjustment before submission. That will likely harm very few, and can also be applied to all sites, also the ones where code and symbols might be present.

6

Not all questions are titles, and styles vary in the use of title case.

When I click ask a question, typing:

Could we please be a bit nicer to new users?

…is a perfectly valid way to ask a question.

When folks come here looking for help, what we really do NOT need is another way to tell them they're doing wrong. This feels like coming up with rules for rules sake; it adds no value.

In my opinion—

  • If it's valid English, leave it.

  • If you prefer title case, then use it.

The site doesn't necessarily get better in every way we can circle people up to do things one way. We don't tell folks whether to use American or European English; we don't insist people use the Oxford comma. Pronouns, verbs, and adjectives should be capitalized, but articles, conjunctions, and prepositions should not… unless the prepositions are used as adverbs, of course.

I know folks are not really expected to know all these rules unless you're up to speed on the 10's of thousands of meta posts discussing all the features and support issues of Stack Exchange. But we should be working harder to remove these barriers of entry instead of adding more UX gaffs for users to trip over. My oh-me-oh-my-my-ocd-oh-meter went off when we found yet another way to remind users, "You are almost certainly going to get this wrong; maybe you do not belong here."

I don't see this adding any value.

oh, sigh. Yeah, I read all the manuals and I was doing it like this ↓ Please fix.Robert Cartaino 13 mins ago

3

I have the same "OCD inclinations" to "correct" things like that (which I resist, or I'd be spending 96 hours per day correcting questions) - but I think the point here on SE is to answer the questions, not make the typography perfect. To that end, I have to ask, "Does it really matter?"

For the most part, I tend to see questions get corrected, either by high-rep users or by community mods, after the question has some discussion and/or an answer or two.

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